President’s Letter: May, 2021

The rollercoaster ride appears to be...continuing...for those of us in the world of logistics. Whether shipping by air, ground or ocean, rates are through the roof for our customers and in exchange for these sky-high prices, we're experiencing rock-bottom levels of service.

There has always been an uncomfortable and tenuous relationship with underlying service providers because our companies may have been the ones to select them for the service, yet regardless of how long-tenured the friendships and relationships may be, they are unable to stave off days-long delays in recovering air freight, weeks-long delays in intermodal rail movements and rates that are triple or quadruple what they were just two short years ago between common ocean freight origin and destination pairings.

If you think this is a thankless position to be in - don't. Your peers know, the experienced logistics and purchasing managers at your shippers know and the more sympathetic carrier representatives know as well. And all are grateful for your continued hard work and adaptation for now the fifteen months of hard work.

Here at the IACAC, we're looking ahead excitedly at a number of things that are happening and want you to be aware of them.

Membership harmonization: We are bringing together our CRM, our website records, our email distribution list and accounting together in a more cohesive fashion. We all use a variety of best-in-breed tools in our offices and the goal is connectivity and communication among them. We're no different.

Beginning with new memberships and renewals this year, we are moving to a membership that is one year from the date of sign-up or renewal. This was driven primarily by the fact that 97% of our memberships are paid by credit card and it was much easier to set them for annual automatic renewals.

We also have probably a dozen people and companies who thought they renewed back in January (myself included) only to discover that the membership type that was created did not charge credit cards, even though they were provided. Our treasurer Therese O'Sullivan is working hard to go through that list and if she's reached out with an invoice or a request to process your card again, that is why.

Golf news: We have been given the green-light for up to 144 golfers - the usual contingent for our annual outing. It will be held on Tuesday, August 11th at Bridges of Poplar Creek with the same usual registration and start times (shotgun at 8:30). We have been given the green light to have sponsors on the holes. The past few years we've done food and alcohol on the course and those are - for the moment - in flux. Alcohol may be staff-constrained because as our sponsors well know, course employees must pour. Right now, it looks like one hole each on the front and back, two beverage carts and the turn at the clubhouse. Registration for golf will open later in May.

A personal congratulations as well to Adam Rod from the Department of Aviation. I have had the pleasure of working with Adam for a number of years now and he has been our liaison for issues with congestion and O'Hare-related issues. This past month, Adam's position changed and his new title is Assistant Commissioner, Cargo Operations and Development. Rather than 20% of his time being spent on cargo, it will now be a full-time job with an office and support staff he must build.

Given the tremendous growth in air cargo that ORD saw during the pandemic even given the severe constriction of passenger flights but uptick in both phfreighters and freighters, an airport representative tasked with making O'Hare a better cargo experience for all stakeholders is welcome news. Congratulations, Adam.

President’s Letter: April, 2021

Cautiously optimistic as I am about the arrival of spring and the last gasp of winter after a couple of days when it didn't make it out of the 40's this week, I have to feel comfortable that the tulips and daffodils sprouting around my house must know something that I don't.

The school calendar isn't lying as the kids are off for the next week, right? And I saw today that the US reached just short of 4 million vaccines, so there has to be joy, right?

And, c'mon - it's baseball season.

A year ago last month, the United States came to a stop, something that nobody in air cargo needs to be reminded of. After all, when the flights were cancelled, the planes were grounded and images like this filled our feeds, we knew it was bad, but nobody really had an appreciation for how long it would remain, nor for how many of our fellow Americans would be lost to the virus.

As if we weren't busy enough thanks to port congestion and delays, all your friends who have no idea what you do for a living became supply chain experts with the escapades of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal.

But if you're in the business like we are - you know that an already constrained air freight market was about to get a whooollllee lot tighter as The Loadstar wrote about this week.

For us at the IACAC, we've been head-down in our own businesses - and kudos and thanks to all of those who have kept the lights on and the doors open to ensure that commerce continues to flow. Overflowing with optimism late last year, I gave our perennial luncheon host Adam Rod a list of dates for 2021 and sadly, we've not been able to avail ourselves of CDOA's usual excellent hospitality.

But...and I cautiously say but...we're getting closer to being together again than needing to remain apart.

We've got webinars planned for this month and next and - honestly - probably still June considering that the time for maximum vaccine efficacy ranges from five to six weeks depending upon which one you get.

July, though? We're thinking...baseball game. Our friends at the Chicago Dogs remain constantly in touch, and we're going to be in touch with them when the time is right.

We can promise for certain that the golf outing is happening as is the raffle - the kids deserve a banner year of scholarships after what we've all been through - but the luncheon is too far away to know what we will be allowed to do. Sponsors of 2019 should be hearing from us this month to gauge their interest in sponsoring a hole again in 2021 and we hope to pick up where we left off with the same smiling faces - masked or unmasked.

For now, I'm going to make sure we've got enough eggs and candy for the kids on Sunday because 70's this weekend portends a wonderful holiday weekend.

President’s Letter: December, 2020

To begin, on behalf of the IACAC Board of Directors, we want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season. In a year unlike any other, this is the time of year that between the pandemonium which shows no sign of abating until well into 2021, we can find a few moments to stop, say "thank you" and breathe around those we love.

If you had asked me in January to write the year-end summary assuming a "cut-copy-paste" of previous years, it would've included a successful outing, member engagement and networking and working together to educate and bring on new members.

But...that's not the year we got.

As we look ahead to 2021, two approved vaccines and the timetable when we can expect to all be vaccinated, we're looking quite honestly at the summer before we can safely resume our in-person activities.

To that end, our webinars will be free because we would like people to be engaged. A number of people have expressed an interest in knowing more about vaccine logistics and what ORD is doing and we're reaching out to a few people to speak to just that - people in our Association who are playing a role in getting front-line and at-risk workers vaccinated as quickly as possible.

The loss of our golf outing and holiday luncheon meant the fundraising engine for our scholarships sat idle this year - but it's not too late. We've picked two winners and will notify them in January - but we'd like to do so with some more money to award them.

You can mail us a check if you'd like, or donate online directly to the Scholarship Fund. $25, $50, $100 - whatever you can give. This money goes right to our scholarship recipients and through no fault of theirs should we not be able to do for our two winners what we normally do in a regular year. Click here to donate.

The Annual General Meeting at which we hold elections is also running behind because of the pandemic. It will be held on Tuesday, January 12th and if you're interested in running, reach out to Brian Bartolotta and send him a headshot and a bio. We've got three - possibly four - positions available for voting directors.

Thanks to everyone for your patience, and we hope to see you all back as members in 2021 when we do everything we can to make up for lost time.

President’s Letter: October, 2020

First and foremost, I hope that this message finds everyone healthy and that their family and friends are feeling the same.

Second, everyone in this industry who is going to work every day and keeps commerce flowing and is frantically scaling up and getting ready for the inevitable onslaught of vaccine delivery and distribution - thank you. On behalf of a grateful nation - and really, grateful world - the people doing this for a living are doing so in plain sight but without the slightest awareness of the public how much they should be appreciated.

Here at the I.A.C.A.C., our board has been meeting regularly, but we've adopted a month-by-month approach to events on our calendar because, quite honestly, we're at the mercy of public health authorities and what just makes good safe sense for our members.

As a board, we carry officers & directors liability insurance, sure, but it doesn't mean we feel like testing the limits of that policy were someone to get sick - or worse - at an event we were holding.

For fans of the show Futurama, it's essentially putting Fry on ice for a few thousand years and coming back out, except in our case it's most likely going to be more like a year and a half (read: early next summer) before it is sufficiently safe to bring large numbers of people together.

Because of the fluidity, we want to bring you up to speed on the rest of 2020 and what we're looking for to 2021.

The scholarship needs YOUR help.

The IACAC Scholarship Fund is filled every year by our golf outing and holiday party. These two events, the money we raise from sponsorships and the generosity of our attendees in buying raffle tickets bring in thousands of dollars which we then award in scholarships.

This year, with no golf outing, we're asking people who usually attend and bring items to donate to just make a cash contribution instead.

The association has set up an entirely separate bank account and 501(c)(3) corporation to receive and disburse the donations as scholarships. If you would normally spend $50 or $100 (or more!) on raffle items, we ask that you consider donating us that amount in cash instead. We can accept payment via check or credit card and you'll be sent a copy of our IRS letter you can use to declare it a charitable donation on your corporate or personal income tax (speak to your tax preparer to confirm this for your individual filing needs).

IACAC Holiday Party: Stay tuned

We might as well let it out that this year, we were really excited to be changing venues to Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Arlington Heights and had planned our Holiday Luncheon for Tuesday, December 8th. Conversations last week with the restaurant's event team highlighted that the current limit in the state of Illinois is 50 people - and we'd booked a room with 100 person capacity.

Beside the fact we'd be upside down on the event, we also don't know what the current level of openness will be based on COVID infection rates at the time. We're leaning to what people in the events sector are calling a "lift and shift" and moving it wholesale (with our deposit) into 2021. Stay tuned for communications on that.

Notional 2021 calendar

Pending the resumption of other in-person events which might conflict for our members (like CNS or other major trade shows), we have tentative planned the following schedule.

  • January 12th - Educational event or webinar
  • February 9th - Educational event or webinar
  • March 9th - Educational event or webinar
  • April 13th - Educational event or webinar
  • May 11th - Educational event or webinar
  • June 8th - Educational event or webinar
  • July 13th - Educational event or webinar
  • August 10th - ANNUAL IACAC GOLF OUTING
  • September 14th - Educational event or webinar
  • October 12th - Educational event or webinar
  • November 9th - Elections
  • December 14th - ANNUAL IACAC HOLIDAY LUNCHEON

We're extremely grateful of the support of our sponsors and members through 2020 and are looking forward to finding ways to deliver more member value and greater opportunities for our sponsors moving through the rest of this year and into 2021.

President’s Letter: October, 2019

There are few greater joys that I have as President of this association than having the opportunity to attend events in other cities held by their local air cargo or freight forwarder associations to listen, learn and participate in their discussions.

Last week I was in Los Angeles, listening to forwarders, airlines, truckers, ground handlers and the airport authority talk about their situation and how they're trying to solve their problems. Like Chicago, Los Angeles has embarked on a major overhaul of their passenger terminals and surrounding infrastructure. Unlike Chicago, they don't have the Phase 3 that we recently had delivered ("Northeast Cargo") that brought additional capacity online. In fact, Los Angeles missed out on the chance for a new facility near Century Blvd. which would have replaced and/or supplemented the existing facilities, many of which have been in existence - and use - since World War II.

We may not fully like our situation, but I can guarantee you that in places like Los Angeles and JFK, they've got it a lot worse.

Next week, I'll be in Honolulu at the invitation of Hawaiian Airlines Cargo to cover Air Cargo Day, the annual major event put on by the Air Cargo Association of Hawaii - their local association representing the air cargo community across the islands. Candidly, I've not been to Hawaii since I was in grammar school, so aside from seeing the modern new cargo facility that Hawaiian Airlines operates, I'm looking forward to learning about the issues that affect their members and community.

Don't miss the chance to attend our event later this month, either. After attending the CBP Trade Symposium in Chicago this summer, the importance of e-Commerce and the sheer volume of what passes through Chicago was made apparent and the chance to see what happens between "envelope introduced into foreign post" and "delivery to US address" was one that I felt our members would benefit from.

With thanks to CBP for making the tour possible and Anna Ma and Rod Zimmerman of Farro and United, respectively, for offering their facility, we've put together a great event on October 29th.

But you've got to register now. We need to give names and copies of ID's to Customs to vet by early next week, so don't delay. We've also only got 30 spots and while we limited it to one person per member company at the outset, we're opening it to additional members from a company and non-members alike on Friday, October 4th. We'll follow up as well to get a copy of your ID to submit to CBP.

Finally, if you're interested in participating in the IACAC Board of Directors, our elections will be held next month. We've done some wonderful things and have a strong, dedicated group of board members and are looking to grow. We've got spots available because of attrition of board members who had to step away because of opportunities at their companies or moving out of the industry.

There's no better time to join the board and learn more about this amazing and vibrant port in which we all work.

As for me? I wish everyone "aloha" and will report back on Air Cargo Day next month.

President’s Letter: September, 2019

It's been a few months since I've written - or since a Pallet has been published. We have a commitment here at the IACAC to keep our members informed and engaged and while we've been busy with programming and utilizing other channels to communicate, we've neglected the blog and The Pallet. Please accept my apologies for that and know that we're back on track as we enter the fall.

It's been an active year of programming, both with our luncheons and our networking events. We recently concluded the golf outing last month which raised a ton of money for our scholarship fund and had record participation from golfers, sponsors and lunch attendees. We're humbled by the support the community shows this event every year and the increasing participation only reinforces that we're providing a fun venue for golfers, sponsors and everyone to get together and enjoy a wonderful day on the links.

The programming isn't abating as we enter the final quarter of this year, either. We've got a bunch of great stuff in the pipeline including a luncheon next Tuesday covering the important and impactful issue of legalized marijuana in the workplace, our annual Oktoberfest event at Church Street Brewing, elections in November and our annual holiday luncheon in December.

Along the way, we're dealing with the increasing uncertainty of Brexit in Europe and the ratcheting up of the ongoing trade war between the United States and China with another few rounds of duty increases coming on October 1st and December 15th. On the bright side, there might be hope of a US - Japan bilateral trade agreement to be announced in the next month or two - so there is hope.

Stay tuned for continued programming announcements - we're trying to finalize October's luncheon / member event which will be a tour of the International Postal Facility. The date is TBD and the spots will be very limited - but we'll be sure to communicate when registration opens. The tour will also require submission of a copy of either a driver's license or passport - CBP's rule, not ours.

President’s Letter: December, 2018

Seasons Greetings, everyone.

As we bring down the curtain on 2018, I have to say thank you to a remarkable group of people - your IACAC Board of Directors - who worked tirelessly through the year to make this one of our most successful in recent memory. We cranked out an amazing number of events and membership is on the rise - and this is all thanks to them and their hard work.

2018 events:

  • Punch Bowl Social Networking Event
  • February Luncheon
  • March Luncheon
  • March Madness Networking Event
  • March Chicago Wolves Networking Event
  • April Luncheon with Mike White, CNS
  • May Luncheon
  • June Luncheon
  • July Luncheon
  • July Picnic in the Park
  • August Golf Outing
  • September luncheon
  • September Oktoberfest
  • October Luncheon with Brandon Fried
  • November luncheon
  • December Holiday luncheon

That's a pretty substantive list of activities when you go back and look at it - and we're not slowing down in 2019.

Speaking of 2019 - have you renewed your membership yet? With a near-record attendance of ninety people at the luncheon, the overwhelming majority raised their hands as members. Thank you for your membership in 2018 - but with the change of the calendar you need to join again next year. Please visit here to renew for 2019.

Scholarship winners

At our holiday luncheon (did you check out the gallery) we gave out four scholarships. Congratulations to Jordan Brown, Eric Ripley, Grace Gadow and Vincent DiVenere. If you click here you can download all four winning essays in a single .pdf file. The scholarship, which is open to IACAC members and their families, is another way we give back to our members. We awarded more than $7,000 in scholarships this year - money raised from our holiday party and golf outing.

Board of director elections

Congratulations to Ben Pecoraro of Basic Crating & Packaging who was elected to the board in our November elections. Ben is our newest voting board member along with Pamela DeSalvo and Maureen Schmitt who were re-elected. Therese O'Sullivan was also elected as a non-voting board member.

A big thank you to outgoing board members Chris Aguirre, Laura Candella and Treasurer Mike Cohen. We are thankful for your contributions over the past years to the Association.

2019 events - mark your calendar

On Thursday evening, January 17th, we're kicking off the year with a networking event at Punch Bowl Social in Schaumburg. It's free for members, $25.00 for non-members. Registration is open now. Thanks to MSA Security who are one of our first sponsors for the event!

On Tuesday, February 19th, our first luncheon will feature a team from K2 Solutions, Inc., a provider of canine teams certified by TSA to perform screening in Certified Cargo Screening Facilities. We're working to get representation from TSA as well. This will not be an SSI-session, but will be a good chance for companies to familiarize themselves with how the canine screening process can work for IAC's and determine if it is a worthwhile investment for their companies.

President’s Letter: November, 2018

As I teased in The Pallet, November's a big month for voting. On the first Tuesday of the month, we vote for state and federal candidates. On the second Tuesday of the month, we vote for board positions for the IACAC. It is humbling to see new faces running for the board - it tells us that the energy the group is generating makes people want to be part of it and advance us even further. We are fortunate to have guidance, advice and support from many past presidents and board members - and what those people have to say and offer is extremely valuable and informs us as we debate and consider new opportunities for our members.

The annual election luncheon will be held Tuesday, November 13th, at the Department of Aviation. We encourage all our members to attend not just to network, but to meet our candidates, all of whom will be speaking and presenting themselves at the event. If you can't make the event in person but are a member in good standing of the IACAC, you can vote for the candidates by absentee ballot.

All you need to register for the luncheon or download and submit your ballot can be found right here.

December Holiday Luncheon

Mark your calendars for Tuesday - December 11th - a little over a month from now - to join us for our annual Holiday Luncheon at Belvedere Events & Banquets in Elk Grove Village. As always, we encourage everyone to bring an unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots collection that IACAC Board Member (and Marine) Maureen Schmitt arranges. Please also bring items that we can raffle off to raise money for our Scholarship Fund. Tickets are a very affordable $35 for members and non-members alike and we encourage everyone to join us and participate. Registration is open for the luncheon at this link.

IACAC Board On The Road - TIACA and WESCCON

Chuck Menini and I were both in Toronto for TIACA's Air Cargo Forum 2018 - it was extremely informative and gave us a few great ideas for topics to have for our upcoming luncheons, including UAV's and explosive-sniffing dogs. Along with this were very interesting sessions, some of which are available on TIACA's Periscope page that were live-streamed or by going back through TIACA's Twitter feed from those few days. 

If you're interested in hearing what Chuck and I had to say, why not check out this video from the IACAC Facebook page? 

I was also fortunate enough to score an interview with TIACA's Secretary General Vladimir Zubkov. That video is also on the IACAC Facebook page - but go ahead and use this direct link.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Brian Bartolotta was exhibiting at WESCCON and the word everybody was buzzing about was tariffs and what it has meant for importers as well as freight forwarders.

Join us (or join us again) in 2019

We are very excited to be kicking off membership renewals for 2019. We have plenty of great things planned for 2019 including members-only events, discounts and service offerings from vendors who want your business. We're extremely affordable at only $130 for a corporate membership and $50 for an individual membership. Don't wait - renew today.

President’s Letter: October, 2018

It is a sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to write this column every month. Despite having left the transactional side of the business now six year ago, the degree to which I remain involved in the day-to-day issues that affect the industry is amazing and wonderful. I stand by my firm belief that there are fewer industries where we rely on each other more - both asset and non-asset owning companies - and where individual friendships and relationships are forged and remain in place for decades. People that fall in love with logistics don't necessarily go to school for it. Maybe they answer an ad, have a friend who ropes them in or have a family member who is already "in it". However people come to it and for whatever reasons they remain, makes me more proud of our industry with each passing day.

London & Brussels calling.

In September, I traveled to the UK and Brussels and had the pleasure to meet and network with people like the publisher of The Loadstar, Alex Lennane and the head of BIFA, Robert Keene. We talked congestion, Brexit and the issues that forwarders deal with on a daily basis and rest assured, they are the same things, just on the other side of the pond.

In Brussels, I spent a day and a half with the amazing Steven Polmans, head of cargo and logistics for Brussels Airport. With a staff of seven, Brucargo has taken a number of steps to alleviate congestion and to work more closely. It took them a number of years, but Air Cargo Belgium is now the group to which everyone belongs and has a paid staff that manages technology, working groups and collaboration and problem / conflict resolution. It is my personal belief that for airport communities to have the success of Brussels, the airports must take the lead as the facilitators. Dedicated staff who act as the mediators, facilitators and advocates are best positioned to represent these groups. 

Brussels also operates Brucloud, a technology platform which companies connect to and is growing through the use of things like slot booking and information sharing. I took a video with Sara van Gelder from Steven's team and it's here on Facebook

It took Brussels seven years and while I hope that here in Chicago and elsewhere it doesn't take that long for us, they've given me a blueprint in my mind for how we can work better together.

Two more events - Elections and our holiday party.

As we move into November and December, we only have two major events remaining on the calendar - our elections which are on Tuesday, November 13th, and our holiday party on Tuesday, December 11th. Please mark your calendars to attend both. Watch for the emails reminding you and providing a chance to register. If you are interested in running for the IACAC board - and I believe we have at least four, possibly five declared candidates as of this writing, we welcome your engagement and participation.

Membership renewals coming for 2019 - and get the rest of 2018 if you join now!

In November you will start to see an earnest push for membership - whether getting our 2018 members to renew, getting former members back or finding companies and individuals to join us for the first time next year. The IACAC is making internal improvements to increase the value of membership in our organization. I personally promise that while you may have seen benefits of membership to date, it will ramp up even further next year.

September, 2018 President’s Letter

As we enter the final quarter of the year, we're all wondering what the peak will look like this year. There is, of course, the usual reliable shipments of new consumer electronics such as the latest offerings from Apple and other tech companies, the holiday toys that make an impact and the exponential year-on-year increases in eCommerce packages that are changing the composition of forwarders consolidations.

Here in Chicago, with the announcement that Mayor Emanuel will not seek re-election, we wonder what things will look like over at the Department of Aviation and whether or not there will be turnover in leadership and what that means for cargo and cargo development.

What we do know is that we will work closely with the city and our airline and ground handling partners to ensure that we have an open dialog for staffing and service and if issues arise, we've got someone to talk to and communicate to our members quickly and effectively.

September luncheon - Kyle Matousek

This one will be a treat. We are normally very focused on industry issues that sometimes we forget what is necessary for our businesses or for our own professional development. Kyle's experiences as a firefighter and in the military position him to talk about leadership from some fairly life-and-death positions. While those who haven't faced that kind of danger cavalierly throw around the term "I nearly died because of 'x'," in Kyle's case this is the literal truth. Register for the event here.

September networking - Oktoberfest!

With thanks to DHL Aviation, AOT Group, Tax Air and TransChicago National Lease, we're going to have a great time on Thursday, September 13th at Church Street Brewing in Itasca. We've got a pretzel truck, we've got Oktoberfest beer and we've got a great night with friends and colleagues. Free for members  - $25.00 for non-members. We'll be offering memberships for 2019 that includes the balance of 2018 - so don't miss a chance to get some value for dollar. Register here.

October luncheon - Brandon Fried

With a pretty key election coming up in November, Brandon's insight sitting just a block and a half away from the White House and the Capitol are always welcome. There are still important things happening in regulatory agencies such as ACAS and the FMCSA taking a look at the Hours of Service issue. Brandon's insight will be welcome and note that he'll be at the Chicago Department of Aviation's facility. Registration is open - click here to get registered now.

Visiting London and Brussels this month

This month I will be traveling to both London and Brussels over the course of a week. In the UK I will be meeting with representatives of BIFA, the British International Forwarders Association. My plan is to talk Brexit, a third runway at Heathrow and how they deal with congestion owing to very tight real estate and ground handling challenges. I hope to meet with a representative of London Airports as well. Across the channel, I'll be meeting with Steve Polmans, head of cargo at Brussels Airport and getting a tour and understanding of a Cargo Community they've created called Brucloud. I hope to speak to several global ground handlers who are in both Brussels and Chicago to find out how they manage and interface with their local air cargo communities to improve productivity and communication. Watch for some trip reports from the road.